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cat parent must-knows
Cat drinking water

The essentials

  • Due to their desert ancestry, cats don’t drink nearly as much water as dogs — Dehydration can be extremely common in cats.
  • Water is the most essential nutrient in terms of keeping cats healthy and alive — It’s important to ensure your cat has access to water at all times.
  • There are multiple ways you can provide hydration to your cat — A lack of doing so may lead to urinary tract issues and kidney failure.

10 ways to encourage your cat to drink water

If you’re a cat owner, you know they can be stubborn. That’s why you may have to get creative when it comes to getting them to drink up. The good news is, there are plenty of tactics and techniques you can try, and most of them are easily accomplished.

1. Switch to canned food

Wet food isn’t just a special treat for your cat — it can actually be a key player in their hydration. Most canned foods contain between 78 and 82% water, providing your cat with hydration without them even knowing it. In fact, one study on this topic found that when cats ate a wet food diet, their overall fluid intake increased even if they drank less water overall.

2. Add water to your cat’s kibble

This suggestion is pretty straightforward. If, for whatever reason, your feline seems to steer clear of wet food, try moistening their favorite dry kibble with some water. In one go, it will provide them with both nutrition and hydration. (If your cat does like wet food, you can also try putting a scoop on top of their kibble for a thirst-quenching boost.)

3. Clean their bowls daily

Just like humans, cats want to drink clean water. And because they can sometimes be messy eaters, food can easily build up around their feeding station. Make sure to clean their bowls and the area around them every day.

4. Refresh their water regularly

Cats are naturally active at night, so they don’t stop drinking water while you sleep. They also like drinking in quiet locations and might prefer to sip their water when the rest of the house is away. Make sure to refresh their water regularly, including right before you go to bed and whenever you leave for the day.

5. Give your cat options

Every cat has their own preferences and tendencies, so it might be beneficial to learn what your cat likes best. One way to start is by trying out different bowls. For example, an easy-to-access elevated dish can be especially great for elderly kitties. Or, an angled, low-splash bowl that doesn’t tickle your cat’s whiskers could be another option to try.

Some cats also refuse to drink out of certain types of bowls altogether or even have an allergy to their water or food bowl. Others will always prefer a good old-fashioned water glass made for humans. If you find that to be true for your kitty, leave a few around the house for them to nurse.

6. Re-evaluate the location of your cat’s water bowl

As noted before, cats are pretty particular animals, and the fact of the matter is that some kitties might dislike the location of their water bowl. Sometimes this is because it’s in a loud area of the house, while other times their bowl could be too close to their litter box or food. Whatever the reason, try moving your cat’s bowl to a few different locations to get a sense for what your cat likes most.

7. Keep the peace

Cats are also quite territorial, and if you have multiple, they may have trouble sharing. If you notice one of your cats drinks more often than another, it’s possible there’s a power struggle at play. To solve this issue, give each of your cats a designated space to drink that’s free from the threat of other pets in your home.

8. Give them an ice cube

Some cats like to lick ice cubes, which is a perfect (and sneaky) way to encourage your cat to drink more water. Plus it’s a great activity to combat boredom since cats love batting them around the floor. On especially hot days, an ice cube could be an ideal treat.

9. Add some flavor

This shouldn’t be a regular practice, but a few drops of tuna juice sprinkled over your cat’s food can be a great way to sneak in some extra moisture into their diet. Just be sure to get tuna in water — not oil. In cases of dehydration, a bone broth topper mixed with water could be another option, but it’s not something you’d want to give your pet regularly.

10.  Try a fountain (or two)

Cats often gravitate toward water that mimics a natural running source, which is why fountains tend to work so well for them. (This is also why your cat might love sipping water from the faucet.) Batting at the bubbling spout is also a fun (and quite cute) activity for them to enjoy. However, it’s important to note that these water fountains can get dirty quite quickly. Both the water and filter should be changed often.

The dangers of not drinking enough water

Not drinking enough water isn’t good for most animals, but it poses special risks to felines. Some of the most common dangers include the following:

Dehydration. When cats become dehydrated, various bodily functions can be impaired. Hydration contributes to their body temperature regulation, joint lubrication, food digestion, and the delivery of oxygen and other nutrients to their body. Signs of dehydration in cats include lethargy, weakness, poor appetite, dry mucous membranes, and in more severe cases, eyes that are sunken into their sockets.

Urinary tract infections. Cats that don’t drink enough water are ​​more likely to have concentrated urine that contains irritants that cause urinary tract infections. The more hydrated the cat, the more able they are to flush out infection-causing toxins.

Kidney stones. When a cat doesn’t urinate frequently enough, a buildup of calcium oxalate — a mineral that exists naturally in their body — can occur in the urinary tract. That buildup is otherwise known as a kidney stone, which can grow larger over time and eventually cause medical complications that require surgery.

Bladder stones. Bladder stones encompass all types of minerals that can build up in a cat’s urinary tract. More specifically, they can denote a buildup of struvite which, like calcium oxalate, naturally exists in cats. Bladder stones occur when there’s a high concentration of either mineral, which then forms into urinary crystals that can grow into stones. Laser treatment or surgery is often required in these cases.

A word to the wise: Get to know your cat’s habits

It’s important that you prioritize becoming familiar with your cat’s eating and drinking habits, as any change in their daily routine can indicate a health concern. Take your cat to a veterinarian right away if you notice anything out of the usual.

According to Chicago Animal Care and Control, excessive thirst may be a sign of kidney disease, diabetes, hyperthyroidism, Cushing’s disease, and more. If your cat seems to be drinking water all the time, you might want to take a trip to your local vet.

Frequently asked questions

What should I do if my cat won’t drink water?

Do everything you can to give your cat options — try multiple water bowls in different locations throughout the house, invest in a fountain, or even let your feline drink from the sink. If those tricks don’t work, increase the moisture in their diet by switching to wet food or topping their kibble with water. If you’ve tried everything and still have trouble getting your cat to drink, take them to a vet. A special food made for cats with urinary issues may be prescribed to help encourage them to drink.

Can I give my cat water in a syringe?

If your cat is sick, your vet may suggest giving your cat water through a syringe. But don’t do this without first speaking with your vet. You should also never force your cat to drink, as this could cause them to have an aversion to water.

Why doesn’t my cat drink enough water?

Cats drink much less water than the average dog. This difference likely stems from cats’ roots as desert animals that had little to no access to fresh water. This is why many cats need a little encouragement to drink.

How can I motivate my cat to drink more water?

Use all of the above tips, and if your cat drinks from a bowl, be sure to fill it up all the way. This will create ease of access for temperamental kitties. It will also help prevent their whiskers from touching the edges of the dish, which is a sensation they don’t tend to like.

What can I do to get my kitten to drink more water?

Making the switch from nursing to drinking water is sometimes a difficult adjustment for kittens. To encourage the change, it’s best to fill a shallow dish with water — one that they can reach their tiny necks over. If need be, you can incorporate a bit of tuna juice to stimulate their senses when introducing them to water.